Pittsburgh Steelers fifth-year defensive end Cameron Heyward is expected to be fined for the second week in a row for his decision to write on his eye black the words “Iron” and “Head”, which constitute the pseudonym of his popular professional athlete father, Craig “Ironhead” Heyward”, who lost his battle with brain cancer in 2006, before the younger Heyward was even at Ohio State.
He is also expected to have his appeal heard today, during which he will make an argument that I previously alluded to last week on Twitter: that former Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still was never fined for writing the words “Leah Strong” on his own eye black.
Curious, would the NFL fine Devon Still for this? https://t.co/gg6bHXMiyK
— Matthew Marczi (@mmarczi) October 14, 2015
According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Heyward actually consulted Still on the matter, though this report does not elaborate on the specifics of that consultation. As Heyward noted after the first fine, however, Week Five was not the first time that he wore the message, even this season, on his eye black.
The most disturbing aspect of this story is the fact that the league tamped down on this matter during October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a campaign to which they are fully committed, promoting players donning aspects of their attire colored pink in unity with breast cancer survivors, their left ones, and those not so fortunate.
Among those is the mother of Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams, who lost a prolonged battle with breast cancer last year. The league has also denied Williams’ request to wear pink for the duration of the season in honor of his mother, not just in October.
The 32-year-old was certainly not surprised by the decision, to be sure. He has dyed the tips of his dreadlocks pink as a small token of his support for those affected by breast cancer, and as a tribute to his mother, which is one thing that the league cannot touch.
Heyward’s message for Ironhead, his father, likewise, was not just a singular tribute to one individual, but rather a symbol of support and a hope for the promotion of awareness, which is something that the former first-round draft selection spoke about over the course of the past week.
It is easy, and perhaps accurate, to be cynical on this topic, in a number of facets. While Heyward may have violated the letter of the law, I would not say that he violated the spirit of the law—and if he had, then that says something rather negative about that law.
Unfortunately for Heyward, the death of his father nearly a decade ago after a battle with brain cancer is not nearly as marketable as the ongoing struggle of a little go suffering from neuroblastoma. I do not expect him to receive a favorable outcome from the league office, but I fully support him if he chooses to continue to bear the name of Ironhead under his eyes to raise awareness.